The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World by A.J. Baime
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The tale of the rise of Harry Truman is a uniquely American fable, and wouldn't be believable had it been written as fiction and not come to pass.
Truman's ascent from mediocrity to the role of the most powerful man in the free world is Arthurian in its serendipitous momentum. He was a middle-aged, broke businessman thrust into a lowly county office as a political pawn of a corrupt businessman.
That led to his being hand-picked as a patsy placeholder to run for Senate, where he caught the eye of party power players who maneuvered him into position as an afterthought vice president to FDR. After his sudden passing, Truman found himself in the driver's seat of America's World War II apparatus, which eventually tasked him with the impossible A-bomb decision that would forever define his legacy and set the course for the free world.
A.J. Baime tells Truman's story with a Dickensian spirit, making the reader feel as though they're breathlessly tagging along on an impossibly lucky journey through history.
Along the way, Truman shines as a saintly figure who maintains his relatability through self-deprecation. His calm confidence owes to his moral fortitude rather than any airs of greatness.
Tony Messano's narration in the Audible version strikes the appropriate tone, delivering a relentlessly upbeat and energetic take on the prose.
The book is a shining lesson of the pitfalls of elitism, and the trouble with underestimating someone perceived as common and unexceptional. What a world we live in, that a man like Harry Truman could start from the bottom and ascend to the most dizzying heights. And what a blessing for the Western world it was that he managed to handle the heady burdens which such collected wisdom and grace.
Publisher provided review copy.
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